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The Ironworks - Neverwinter Nights Area

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  About the Game

Behind the Scenes
(From the Creators of Neverwinter Nights)



The NWN project was a happy little hubbub of activity in March. Aside from the intrusion of the Game Developers Conference, where I was fortunate enough to host a roundtable, the month was a good one for the project. Without further delay, let's get into it…

The additions to the graphics engine are looking good. Every few days I see a new little graphical addition and I'm amazed at how much better the engine looks. NWN is going to be one visually impressive game.

In addition to a solid graphics engine, RPG programming need to focus on a number of other "minor" elements such as inventory, AI, path finding, a combat system, a complex rules system, etc, etc. :-) The Inventory system is progressing well, with the basic pick-up, equip, put-to-inventory, and drop-to-ground elements working together within a multiplayer environment. AI and dynamic path finding are also well underway. We have a pesky Noober fellow walking around by himself in the game world, avoiding dynamic objects, for instance. The combat system is still undergoing heavy design and prototyping, and we're looking forward to seeing what the first results will look like.

The programming additions to the graphics engine would be nothing without art, of course. The artists on the project were able to put together some truly great content for the engine and make some very sharp scenes. The tilesets are settling into their final look and feel and the detail is amazing. The character portraits are just underway and are already looking great. Additionally we have created a few new PC / NPC models and they look very slick. The art team has expanded with the addition of new personnel and we are starting to generate a prodigious amount of content on a daily basis.

Over the ides of March, the design team covered a wide variety of ongoing issues and concerns. We're starting to really get into the radial menu hierarchies and we'll start seeing them in the game fairly soon. In other GUI-work, we've been sorting out some of the major GUI-flows for Solstice, as well, making sure that it will have all the power and ease-of-use that we'll require of it. We've also been discussing some different voice types we want available for the player characters and NPCs, and will be developing those further in the months ahead.

We've been revisiting our NPCs, lately, dealing with them in greater and greater depth. We've been isolating their various through lines within the larger story and clarifying their motivations and desires. This more drama-oriented approach is lending our characters a lot more depth and texture than the more common function-oriented approach to NPC and story development. All of this, of course, has beneficial ripple effects throughout the larger story. Little by little, we're weaving it tighter and tighter, in greater and greater detail.

As a whole NWN is coming together a little at a time. Every day seems to bring an exciting new addition to this or that element of the project. Many of the early design ideas are just starting to emerge in the final framework and they seem to work quite well. With the implementation phase now fully underway, the strength of the early design is being proven time and time again. What is more, our solid prototyping and troubleshooting process is actually saving us a lot of time and grief in the here and now, helping things go smoothly as the project gets more complex and the various teams expand to include new personnel. We've got a talented and dedicated team here, spring is in the air, we've got a great new version of the engine, and we've got plenty of new things to show in it. Things are good.

Trent Oster
Producer - NWN
Bioware Corp.



We've been pretty busy around here, as of late, adding a few new members to the development team, working towards our E3 demo, and adjusting to some of our new in-house development tools that are beginning to come online. Also, there will be a fair-sized BioWare contingent attending the upcoming Game Development Conference, as well, so a number of folks are putting the final touches on their presentations and round tables. Our ever-intrepid Dr. Ray Muzyka will be presenting a Baldur's Gate post-mortem, providing a bit of a window into some of the things that can go right and wrong in the development of today's large-scale CRPGs. Also, Ben Smedstead will be filling in for Greg Zeschuk, leading a round table on the maintenance team morale and focus over the course of a lengthy development cycle.

In terms of Neverwinter-specific presentations, Trent Oster will be hosting a round table on the role and importance of prototyping within the development process (something we've greatly benefited from) and Scott Grieg will be a part of the Sega panel on cross-platform development. Also, Mark Brockington will be presenting on path-finding issues and how to optimize large-scale A-Star search algorithms. So if you'll be attending the conference, pop on by and say hello. If not, keep your eye on the BioWare website for some post-GDC commentary.

After a long time in the trenches, working on underlying structures and behind-the-scenes code, the programming team is finally getting some of the glory tasks that are immediately apparent to anyone running the game. The lighting system is coming together nicely and is looking better than ever, especially when you see torchlight glinting off an axe-blade or playing across your character's breastplate. The interface components are also starting to come together, with functioning inventory, chat, and character rosters. The best part is that all of this is functioning in both multiplayer and single player modes: client, server, LAN, Internet. Also, the tools group has been hard at work on some viewers for the artists, on Solstice's area-painting interface, and on the various ins and outs of saving and loading a variety of NWN file types. It isn't a game yet but we're getting closer with every day.

You'll also be happy to know that Mark Brockington has wrapped up his much-awaited new NWN scripting document for all of you. It's big, it's bright, it's shiny, so give it a look and let us know what you think.

Industrious as always, the art team has started work on player portraits and has done another wave of tileset conception. A subset of the crypts have been fully modeled and textured for use in Solstice's prototype area painter and we've been getting a really nice feel for how the new lighting system interacts with them. The programmers have been bringing more and more of our interface mockups to life and we're really beginning to define the look and feel of the player's experience.

Icons are well under way, both for some basic game and GUI actions as well as for actual inventory items. Weapons are getting the royal treatment and the sheer variety of visual styles available in NWN ought to be pretty stunning. The icon for a broadsword, for instance, is composed of three parts: blade, guard, and hilt, each of which you will be able to select independently when creating the weapon in Solstice. In other words, your 'Broadsword of the Deva's Fall' can combine the curving snake-like blade, the jewel encrusted guard, and the scarab hilt to make something visually unique within your Gameworld. Assuming that there are 5 options for each of the 3 parts, the system allows for 125 visually distinctive broadswords (above and beyond the various unique combinations for daggers, short swords, long swords, bastard swords, etc.).

Design Doc 4.0 has been completed (and there was great rejoicing), allowing the team to return its focus to the ongoing implementation plans. The existing ones have withstood the Design Doc revisions very well and needed only minor modifications to bring them inline with the latest developments. For the most part, though, we've been able to look forward rather than back.

One of the exciting aspects of being able to return to our work on the story is that the implementation plans have brought some new characters to the fore and have also led to some refinements of the larger story. All of this preliminary documentation not only makes the eventual module creation process more efficient but it also helps us to tell a better tale.

Amidst the flurry of activity, work is also underway on a collection of casting guides. Sound and voice work is critical in defining the feel of a game and the nature of the characters within it, and these guides play an important role when it comes time for Black Isle to cast the voice actors for the game. A typical guide includes a phonetic pronunciation of the character's name, a brief description of the character's role in the story, a description of the desired voice (including any desired accents and a movie actor or other famous figure that sounds similar), and finally some sample lines that are typical of what the character might say.

Rob Bartel
Lead Writer/Designer
Neverwinter Nights
BioWare Corp.



January went by in a blur and it seems like I just finished my December update. Nonetheless, we've made some major progress with the graphics engine and extending the scripting language. But enough generalizations -- let's get to the details:


In January we made amazing progress with the graphics engine and the art tools. We know have the character coloring system running in a test application, with an added component for making metal look like… well, metal. For all of you who have gotten used to all the old prototype screenshots floating around the web, prepare to be thoroughly amazed when you see it in the new engine.

NWScript has undergone a good set of revisions, as well, and the language is growing in power and ease-of-use every day. For the technically minded among you, we not only added the ability to pass parameters into user-created functions but also the ability to create user-defined structures. This will allow for much more powerful character and module scripting.

Not to be outdone by the scripting and engine guys, our multi-platform programmers have made some great progress with the various OS versions of the game, as well. The Mac, Linux, and BeOS versions are all caught up to the Windows version and running smoothly.

For the Art Department, January was a continuation of conception. We are planning out the various looks and themes of various tilesets, making each as interesting as possible. We also had a large shakedown with the art content creation tools, finding any problems and optimizing the workflow between the creation package and the game engine. We've also started putting together a few big teasers and goodies for those of you who can smuggle yourselves into E3.

Aside from the ongoing progress on the implementation plans, the design group was slammed all month with a large number of issues. We've been finalizing the spell list to pass off to the programmers and have taken another pass through the latest 3rd Edition revisions, making sure we're accurate and up to speed. Following all the design meetings, each of the issues discussed and decided have to be committed to the ever-more-massive Design Document 4.0. We expect this one to be more than double the size of its previous incarnation, a sure sign that the game is starting to take shape. It's a long and difficult process but it will pay off when it comes time to begin the implementation process.

In short, January has been a good start to the millennium. We were able to make the scripting modifications in direct response to the requests from our message boards and we continue to look to our growing community for further suggestions of how we can make Neverwinter Nights better.


Trent T. Oster
Neverwinter Nights
BioWare Corp.


The month of December went by in a flash. The development crew logged some good progress and some key areas are moving ahead quite well. The world didn't blow up with Y2K and everyone is back in the office and in production.

December was a good month for programming, with substantial progress on the area transition system and the AI path finding code. We now have an annoying NPC (shades of "Noober," anyone?) who will blindly follow you from area to area. The chat system is progressing well, with the basic system functional and working well. On the graphics engine front, we have added a few new visual effects and refined the tools for art creation. Our next demo is going to look amazing.

For the Art Department, December was all about conception. We put a lot of thought and argument into the in-game user interfaces and came up with a format that we're quite happy with. There are still a few quirks to be worked out, of course, but we'll be able to get a better handle on things as we move from the concept stage and into the implementation of a few working prototypes. Additionally, we burned a fair amount of time into art scheduling and personnel planning to make sure that the department's a well-oiled machine in time for our headlong dive into full implementation.

The design group spent December creating implementation plans for the first modules in the first environment. The plan for module 101 spans 35 tight single-spaced pages, with every detail you need to know to build the entire module. The effort spent now on the implementation plans will save a ton of effort in the implementation and testing stages, later in the development cycle. We're also busy balancing our spell lists and detailing the various game effects for the programmers to start working on.

Overall, December went quite well. Every day I see some new idea or new interpretation of our vision, making the experience of working on NWN a magical one. The ideas and suggestions on the message boards continue to amaze me and drive the team forward. We can't imagine a better project to be working on.

Trent T. Oster
Producer - Bioware - NWN


Believe it or not, the programming is running on schedule. Comparing where we are now to the programming plan we made in April, we are plus or minus a week or two on most tasks. Of course there are a few tasks we should've started already, but we have also completed some tasks that weren't scheduled for completion until next year.

One of the tasks that was done early was the porting of the machine dependent portions of the game framework. We have the Mac, Linux, and BeOS versions up to date with the Windows versions. Yes, even BeOS (though, for the record, we don't have any final plans for the distribution of the various OS versions). We even had a Windows server running with Windows, Mac, Linux and BeOS clients all running around together in one of our test areas.

We have pretty much finished up all of the non-game related coding. Everything from now on is user interface, game behaviors, and rule systems. Of course this is actually the bulk of the work, but it will be nice to see the game features start to appear. We are currently working on the internals of the inventory system and, once that is done, we will be tackling the combat system. The combat system will probably be an ongoing task, but we are hoping to have a preliminary system to tinker with soon.

On the Art front, modeling and texturing is progressing with the city of Luskan. We updated the BioWare website over the course of the month and have made some solid progress on concepting both characters and tilesets. We're also starting to work out many of the functional and artistic details of the graphical interface. Unfortunately, art at this stage of the project is a lot of hard work with very little final content to show for it. We are planning on a lean period for new screenshots and artwork over the next few months.

Design has been focused on the writing of the implementation plans and staying current with the latest updates to the 3rd Edition rules. We have made some revisions to our storyline, adding depth to the player's experience and making it more fantastic, as well as helping it fit better with the new D&D rules. The first implementation plan recently crossed my desk and is exactly what it was intended to be: an extremely in-depth detailing of a module. It will be an invaluable reference for the writers and scripters, and a bible for our testers. We may also bundle them up as text files and make them accessible to the DMs and module designers so everyone can better understand the details of the module and the process we went through to get there. At about 25 pages apiece, these little nuggets of joy are going to be keeping the Design Department busy well into the future.

Neverwinter Nights is a huge undertaking and will require a great deal of expertise and commitment to complete. We are pushing forward as fast as possible with the care and attention the game deserves. As a team, a company and a group of passionate individuals we are committed to making the greatest D&D computer game possible.

Trent Oster
Producer - Bioware - NWN


October is over? What do you mean it's over?

The month has been a blur, with solid steady progress on NWN. Our good friend Greg "Big Tuna" Peterson did a little post on the message board asking what people would like for an update, so I will try to broaden my approach and address a few of the big questions you all have. First, however, I'd like to break down the past month's progress according to the different departments.

NWN art is progressing smoothly, with character modeling and texturing on target. The new character system is working quite well and we have both sexes of full plate armor modeled. The next models to be created are the partial plate characters. Character texturing has progressed in a solid manner with most of the full plate models completed. We also put the final design on the character coloring system, which allows the player to change the six user defined colors on the character.

On the tile modeling front, the evil dungeon tileset modeling has been completed. We also have a good start on the Luskan city tileset. We'll still have to go back to texture the tiles and create the path finding and collision detection meshes, but we are making good progress.

On the programming front, progress has been fast and furious, with a ton of programming design and implementation happening in the past little while. We have built the basic AI system structure and have implemented the path finding engine. The graphics engine reworking is well underway and we are re-engineering some of the art tools for the engine. The game GUI systems are progressing at lightning speed, and we're currently getting our GUI primitives to work seamlessly across all platforms. The Mac and Linux versions are almost up to date and looking good.

Early next month is will be possible to get the game clients to log in to a server and have each client display his/her character and any other characters logged in. From this stage forward, we can get into game specific systems, such as the AI, the combat system, and the radial menu system implementation. November is where the real fun starts and we're all looking forward to it.

The big push in design during October has been the various game systems, such as lore, reputation, encounters, chat, and so on. We have been taking the various early ideas, bringing them up to date, and consolidating them in the hefty Design Doc 3.0. I would love to speak more in-depth about the game systems we have been working on but, due to their close links with the 3rd Edition rules, we're not really in a position to discuss too many of them publicly. I will tell you that we did some additional work with specialty priests (whistles innocently) and of course read the through the finalists in the story contest. We would like to say a big thanks to everyone who participated. We can't wait to play the modules you people are going to create.


1) The Scripting Language One of the major requests was about the scripting language. I passed that on to our AI/Networking programmer, Mark Brockington, and he was kind enough to write up a brief blurb on the scripting language.

2) Concept Art Another request dealt with the release of some concept art, so in the screenshot section we have put up some of our new concepts.

There is also one new screenshot in the Gallery as well as a new wallpaper .BMP in the Downloads section. - Ed.

3) Monster Screenshots Another request was for monster screenshots. Sadly, I'm going to decline on this one, because we want to polish up the monsters we are working on.

4) The Solstice Toolset Another area of substantial requests was the Solstice Toolset, what will it look like, what can it do? At this time the Solstice toolset is still early in development and there isn't much to show or to talk about. We will post updates on the tools when they are further along.

Well, that's it for another month. The project is on course and the development is going extremely well.

Yours Truly,
Trent Oster
Producer - Bioware - NWN



Hey everyone. We have some new, fancy 3rd Edition D&D concept art for you to look at -- straight from Wizards of the Coast. Check it out on our Gallery page.

- Bishop Sawyer



Ye Olde Storytelling Contest

Well met, adventurers of Faerűn! The length and breadth of Toril could not hold all of the books that Deneir would require to scribe the world's tales of high adventure. The patron of writing has requested that I, his humble servant, hold a contest to bring forth the finest tales of valor and infamy from across the Realms. Might your tale be the one held in highest esteem by Deneir himself? You'll never know unless you take up the challenge...

The Rules: Write a story about high adventure or foul villainy in the Forgotten Realms. The story must be 1,000 words or less. Submit the story as non-formatted plain text in an e-mail message to the preliminary judges. Include your full name and a shipping address. Stories will be judged by NWN Lead Designer/Avatar of Deneir Rob Bartel. Do not send e-mail directly to him about the contest or Deneir's Olde Symbole of Paine will be employed. Stories must be submitted by midnight, September 30th, 1999. All judges' decisions are final.

The Places/Prizes:

Three stories will be selected for creative use of setting, characters, and story.

Prizes will be determined by how well we think the authors excelled in a particular area. For instance, an author who showed an excellent use of setting may receive a Forgotten Realms Boxed Set, the Shining Empires Boxed Set and the Sea of Fallen Stars Campaign Expansion. Other possible prizes include (but are not limited to): Player's Handbooks (including Options), DM's Handbooks (including Options), Forgotten Realms setting materials, the Faiths and Avatars series of books, the Encyclopedia Magica series, the Monstrous Manuals, and various Forgotten Realms novels. Please do not request prizes or Deneir's Olde Symbole of Paine might have to be employed again.

Winning stories will be displayed on the NWN website for praise and adoration by your peers.

- Garrd of Deneir, Priest Librarian, Emissary of the Soaring Spirit to our brothers in faith, the clergy of Oghma in Neverwinter



I am proud to say that the development of Neverwinter Nights is rolling along very smoothly. We have a great team of very talented individuals. On a more detailed front I recently had the joy of observing a design idea come to fruition. The character colouring system, which allows us six different player colours on each player model, works how we planned it. The end result is you can set the six individual colours to any shade and get the character to look just as you want. The system works quite well and will give us a vast visual variety to characters and NPCs. On a personal note, I would like to wish Guido Henkel well in his future endeavors and say it was a pleasure working with him on the development of Neverwinter Nights.

Trent Oster
Producer - Bioware - NWN



Welcome to the official website for “Neverwinter Nights”. Some of you may remember a similarly named game some years back that was hosted by a large Internet service provider at a time when Internet gaming was in its earliest days. Times have changed since then and so has the Internet.

Today we are proud to present you a completely new generation of “Neverwinter Nights”. Based on the award-winning “Dungeons & Dragons”™ system, “Neverwinter Nights” is a true multi-player experience and will allow you to play campaigns in the “Forgotten Realms” campaign setting. The game is currently developed by BioWare, the people who created the magical worlds of the award-winning “Baldur’s Gate”, and is brought to you by Black Isle Studios. Work on the game is still in progress and it will take quite some time before we will all be able to enjoy the fruits of this project, but with this website we want to keep you informed about the progress that is made on this title. It will also give you the chance to voice your opinions, wishes and expectations. We will always have an open ear for what you have to say.

Welcome to a new world - welcome to “Neverwinter Nights”

Guido Henkel
Project Director


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